* Russian Gazprom, Sintez, Azeri SOCAR, two Greek groups bid
* Athens hopes to earn up to 1 bln euros from sale-sources
* No major West European firms made bids, Greek risk cited
* Russian interests clash with EU energy supply aims
By Sophie Sassard and Renee Maltezou
ATHENS, Nov 6 Russia's Gazprom and
Sintez, Azerbaijan's state-owned SOCAR and two Greek
groups have bid for Greek gas company DEPA, Greece's
privatisation agency said on Tuesday.
Greece hopes such asset sales will help it pay off its debt.
The agency confirmed statements to Reuters on Monday by
people familiar with the situation who said the Russian and
Azeri firms had emerged as the main bidders in a deal Greek
officials hope will yield 500 million to 1 billion euros.
The other bidders were consortiums comprised by &
GasCo-itilineos-Motor Oil and PPF and GEK
Advisers to the privatisation agency are examining the bids
and are expected to submit suggestions to the agency's board of
directors in the coming days, the agency said.
"We are satisfied with the investors' response and the trust
in our country and DEPA's prospects despite the difficult
environment," Ioannis Emiris, head of the agency, said in a
Greece hopes to sell all of the company - the government
holds 65 percent, with the remainder owned by Hellenic Petroleum
- by the first quarter of next year, the people
familiar with the situation said.
Of the sales of state assets under way in Greece, DEPA's is
one of the most advanced, alongside gambling company OPAP and
prime real estate projects.
If completed early next year, the sales could put Athens
back toward chipping away at a debt load expected to peak at 190
percent of gross domestic product in 2016.
The government is aiming to earn 300 million euros in 2012
and 11 billion euros by 2016 through the sale of state assets.
DEPA attracted no major Western European bidders - such as
Italy's ENI, French EDF's subsidiary Edison,
and Spain's Gas Natural and Enagas - most
likely due to Greece's risky economic outlook, two of the
The pursuit of DEPA by Gazprom and Sintez underscores the
interest Russian energy companies have in finding ways to extend
themselves into EU states, not least because of past rows with
Ukraine, Russia's major conduit to the EU.
However, a deal with Gazprom could face antitrust hurdles,
since Brussels is already investigating the Russian company,
which is 50 percent-owned by the Kremlin, for alleged price
fixing due to its dominant position as a gas supplier to Europe.
In general, a sale to a Russian company would run up against
EU efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia by
bankrolling new import corridors from the Caspian Sea via
Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Europe's so-called Third Energy Package restricts Gazprom's
control over its European pipeline assets.
DEPA has gas trading activities, while its EPA unit supplies
and distributes gas and its DEFSA unit handles transmission.
UBS is the Greek government's lead adviser on the
deal, alongside Rothschild and Greece's Alpha Bank